Duke Darcy’s Castle: A Dare to Defy Novel (Book 3), by Syrie James—A Review

Duke Darcy's Castle, by Syrie James (2020)From the desk of Pamela Mingle:

A castle in Cornwall overlooking the sea. A dashing, though reluctant, duke who’s just taken over the dukedom. And a heroine who desperately wants to have a career as an architect rather than a love affair. Taken together, a perfect catalyst for a romance that has more than its share of obstacles. Syrie James’s latest novel, Duke Darcy’s Castle, is the third entry in the “Dare to Defy” series set in the Victorian period.

From the moment they meet, an irresistible attraction ignites between the tenth Duke of Darcy, Lance Granville, and Kathryn Atherton, New York heiress. When she arrives at St. Gabriel’s Mount with a proposal to redesign the castle, Lance mistakes her for the village school teacher, and she puzzles over why a duke would answer his own door. They stare at one another, each mesmerized by the other. After a moment, Lance comes to his senses and invites her in.

Kathryn is desperate to show what she can achieve as an architect, a profession exclusively the domain of men during the Victorian period. When a skeptical Lance is about to turn her away, she tries one more time to persuade him to give her a chance. Having learned of his background as a captain in the Royal Navy, Kathryn awes Lance with a drawing of her vision for his study, replacing the “cluttered, gilded look” with a nautical theme. He’s amazed that after such a short time, she knows exactly what would please him. Lance agrees to Kathryn taking on the job, at least for a trial.

Lance insists that financing the castle renovation is no problem. But the truth is, he is deeply in debt, and the notes are due in a few months. He has no idea where he’ll find the money. His late brother’s fiscal management was a disaster for the duchy. For her part, Kathryn is also less than honest. She doesn’t tell him she’s an heiress. Both of her sisters are countesses, having married English earls a while back, but Kathryn doesn’t want to follow in their footsteps. She’s delighted to hear that Lance is well off.

On the first night she stays at the castle, Kathryn has too much to drink. She and Lance give in to their attraction for each other. She passes out while committing a major indiscretion with him. In the morning, Kathryn is disgusted with herself and offers him her resignation. Lance persuades her to stay, and they both vow to keep things on a strictly professional level. Moving forward, Kathryn impresses Lance, both with her talent and her work ethic.

Keeping each other at a distance works reasonably well until Lance’s solicitor reveals the truth about Kathryn’s background. Lance decides it would be a good idea to propose to her. After all, they’re attracted to each other, and both have a vested interest in the castle renovations. And he desperately needs her fortune. So what if they’ve only known each other for three days?

When Kathryn turns him down, he’s mortified. Her sisters married English earls! It seems he chose the one woman in all of England who doesn’t want to be a duchess. Bewildered, he turns to his grandmother for advice. Get to know her, she counsels. Find out what makes her tick, open up to her. He can do those things, but Lance doesn’t appreciate her final words: “Trust me on this. If you want to win that young woman’s hand, you will first have to win her heart.”

Duke Darcy’s Castle impresses with its scrupulous attention to historical detail, from Kathryn’s professional wardrobe to the toys given out at the Children’s Fete. The same is true of the setting. At times, I thought I was in Cornwall looking at the spectacular view of the ocean, feeling the warm slant of the sun, walking across the sand to Rosquay at low tide, and climbing up the hill to the castle.

The love between Lance and Kathryn had the right number of steamy interludes balanced with quiet, sweet moments of speaking freely and openly to each other. However, the frequent interruptions of their lovemaking became somewhat irritating. There is an element of unease for readers that goes along with the fact that Lance absolutely needs Kathryn’s money. The condescending way he views her career aspirations, even after he knows how talented she is, is also disquieting.

James’s focus on Kathryn’s career as an architect moves the novel into a different realm, one of self-realization. One in which the heroine’s work is as fulfilling as her love life. There were limited career choices for women in the Victorian era, and Kathryn showed determination and drive in pursuing her dream, even when her own parents thought it ridiculous, and when Lance belittles it. Modern readers will identify with Kathryn’s dilemma: Can she be a loving wife and mother, yet still have a satisfying vocation?

Duke Darcy’s Castle dazzles with its career-driven, determined heroine and her captivating duke, who doesn’t know his own mind—or heart. Now that I’ve had the pleasure of Kathryn and Lance’s story, I intend to read the first two books in the “Dare to Defy” series. I look forward to the many moments of joy this will bring.

4 out of 5 Stars

The Dare to Defy series by Syrie James


Three American heiresses defy their family’s wishes, and social convention, to strike out and find their own happiness in late Victorian Cornwall.

Runaway Heiress: A Dare to Defy Novel (Book 1)

Brainy and college-educated, American heiress Alexandra Atherton will do anything to avoid marriage to the English peer her mother has chosen for her—even abandon the life of privilege she’s always known. But as her escape goes horribly wrong, Alexandra must invent a new identity to gain the help of a handsome stranger.


Summer of Scandal: A Dare to Defy Novel (Book 2)

An American heiress and an English earl fight against the conventions of society — and their attraction to each other — in the second book in the Dare to Defy series by USA Today bestselling author Syrie James. 


Syrie James SYRIE JAMES is the USA TODAY and Amazon bestselling author of thirteen novels of historical, contemporary, and young adult fiction and romance. Her books have hit many Best of the Year lists, been designated as Library Journal Editor’s Picks, and won numerous accolades and awards, including Best New Fiction by Regency World Magazine (the international bestseller “The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen”), and the national Audiobook Audie for Romance (“The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte”, also named a Great Group Read by the Women’s National Book Association). Los Angeles Magazine dubbed Syrie the “queen of nineteenth-century re-imaginings,” and her books have been published in twenty languages. A member of the Writer’s Guild of America, Syrie is also an established screenwriter and playwright who makes her home in Los Angeles. An admitted Anglophile, Syrie has addressed audiences across the U.S., Canada, and the British Isles.


Duke Darcy’s Castle: A Dare to Defy Novel (Book 3), by Syrie James
Avon Impulse (384) pages
eBook ASIN: B07DCD1HYB (February 25, 2020)
Mass market paperback ISBN: 978-0062849717 (March 24, 2020)


We received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Austenprose.com is an Amazon affiliate. Cover image courtesy of Avon Impulse © 2020; text Pamela Mingle © 2020, Austenprose.com

9 thoughts on “Duke Darcy’s Castle: A Dare to Defy Novel (Book 3), by Syrie James—A Review

Add yours

  1. Many thanks for your thoughtful review, Pam. I especially liked that Kathryn was so determined to excel in her profession, the breathtaking Cornwall locations, and James’ deft storytelling. I hope you have a chance to read the first 2 books in the series too.

    Liked by 1 person

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